Elevating the context.

Peter JonesTransformation Design, Wu Wei

Elevating the context. How can design research move from an anthropocentric unit of study to a planetary / ecological focus? (Not entirely of course, but just to try on the question). Relating this Einstein’s famous quote:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Conside the clarity of columnist Saskia Sassen of Princeton who wrote about the global financial crisis:

A Bad Idea: Using a Financial Solution to the Financial Crisis

“It is almost irrational to give finance the instruments to do more of what has brought us to the brink. The prior bailouts each contributed one more element to the unsustainable leveraging we have now reached. The high level of financializing of our economy is reflected in the relation of financial assets (which is to say, debt) to GDP. It has now reached 450% to GDP, according to the recently released McKinley report. Further, the complexity of this inverted financial pyramid is almost impenetrable. An example is the incapacity of the Treasury to estimate the cost of rescuing AIG — first estimated at $40 billion by its management, it wound up at $121 billion”

By identifying the problem clearly, she offers a good start to problem definition. And solutions are suggested:

“So what would be the mechanisms, the conduits, for transferring tax payers money into small and medium-sized firms that could bring about economic growth, rather than merely being a transfer of money?”

How might we think of a way (as designers and researchers) to engage the stakeholders of the financial mess to help them elevate their context beyond that of international finance? If we were advising politicians, who have to make one big decision well, quickly, how would we even approach the situation?

This is a type of systemic design problem that affects vast numbers of people at an ecological level. Designer’s (and so-called design thinkers) might consider this as an example of the systemic problems we could be taking on in some meaningful way, as today’s Buckminster Fullers, with the problems of our time. Where might 3.0 designers engage to help participants and decision makers clarify their options and create socially meaningful innovation through this mess?